Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Something clicked

It has been gnawing at me for some time - the idea that the world wide web has taken in us what was once an engaged curiosity about the wider world and dispersed its constituent elements in a whirlpool of discontented latencies that have as their lowest common denominator, the ubiquitous click bait.

Three articles can be said to have led to this post. First, a hysterical response to a finely written and, ultimately, pessimistic view of an individual's role in tackling climate change. Two, the article being so commented upon. And three, an unconnected phrase in an experimental review of Saul Bellow's essays.

When I first read Robert Manne's criticism of Jonathan Franzen's essay on climate change, I was struck by how markedly it differed from the literary criticisms I regularly read in The New Yorker magazine itself, where the essay first appeared: The derision in stating Franzen's comparison of the conservationist sensibilities of a metaphorical Puritan Protestant and a metaphorical Franciscan Catholic, the sarcastic references to Franzen's use of a word - climatism, in counterpoint to one used just before - globalism, that seemed to me utterly relevant in its own environment but notably darker when brought out of context, and finally, casting aspersions on the sympathies of The New Yorker's, 'small army of fact checkers', when editing a piece by, 'The Great American Novelist', albeit one, 'incapable of mounting an argument'.
This is a hatchet job, no doubt, laced with the kind of ad hominem attack memes popular among the twitterati and seems destined to coax the outrage out of quasi-conservationists and environmentally-concerned netizens brought to bear on the duplicity of Franzen in decrying the diabolical negationist tendencies of lazy Americans and their destructive lifestyles.

Franzen's essay, meanwhile, manages to marry the cause célèbre of the day with the didactic effectively, with its calm exposition of a conservationist campaign personal to him, before going on to relate it to all that's wrong with how people and governments think about ecosystems, land use, and scalability. In effect, Franzen's argument is that we are using the excuse of climate change to neglect conserving specific species and habitats endemic to certain parts of the world, while stoking conflict about a catastrophe that has clearly overtaken its prevent-by date and that will affect future generations, whether we feel guilty about it or not.

As I was about to delve into Sven Birkerts' captivating account of interviewing himself as a way to alleviate the tedium of writing about Saul Bellow's essays, I encountered the phrase, something clicked, and my first reaction was to think of the phrase as an action performed on a link rather than just the usual reference to an inspiration gained.

What this says about me is that I must live too much of my life on the web, cross referencing authors with their critics, and commentators with their subjects, while learning a little more about the world with every click, baited or not. To paraphrase Franzen at the end of his essay - It's we... who need meaning.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Modern Horror

Drumming up hidden resolve,
From the depths of a recondite nihilism,
Each catch preying upon the next,
Before its own turn arrives,
In a particular wash of self-awareness,
That is cold to the breath,
And rancid to the nose,
A slow drum roll,
Anxiety ebbing and waning with each beat,
For a terrifying climax that never arrives.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Yeah, right

Spring is in the air, and all across the world the change in the weather is being heralded by a revolutionary dismantling of entrenched exclusionary and parochial national systems that will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the human race.

The U.S has eliminated research and development funding for defense equipment and armament procurement in its current budget, and is diverting that money towards more robust enforcement of its refugee support and job placement programs as well as committing a large annually topped-up corpus fund for its widely lauded reparations program for historically oppressed minorities.

Across the Atlantic, Europe is further expanding its Eurozone economic cooperation initiatives to aid economically worse off southern European states, and enhancing the mandate of the Eurogroup to facilitate integration of former colonised countries from Africa, Asia and South America into the European economic system. These reforms will accompany programs encouraging migrants from former colonies to choose where they would like to live and work anywhere on the continent and extending European Central Bank funded initiatives towards the smooth integration of these migrants into local communities.

China, meanwhile, is working closely with the Russian Federation to identify and isolate decades-old nuclear military equipment and transform their infrastructure to better support power generation capabilities that serve the needs of the wider Central Asia region. This cooperation further builds on concerted efforts by both nations to conform to and exceed the targets proposed in the Reversal of Climate Change treaty of which they are both founding members and signatories.

Iran and Israel have set up a joint task force to further the cause of a lasting peace in the Middle-East by supporting greater university-level semester exchange programs for students from their countries, as well as providing free higher education to students from any other nation in the region, in a structure set up on the lines of the higher education system of France.

India and Pakistan have finally resolved their differences over Kashmir by holding a long delayed plebiscite and following that, extending financial and institutional support to the newly established and fledgling Republic of Kashmir. The volume of trade between all the countries that make up the South Asia region has been on a sky-rocketing trajectory ever since, and has led to a AAA credit rating for the region by the major global credit rating agencies.

Australia has led the way to tackling climate change with the farthest reaching programs in the world in an effort to enhance the scope of the Reversal of Climate Change treaty, and has fundamentally transformed their erstwhile primarily resource-extraction based economy to one that is knowledge and consulting based. The number of people migrating from third-world countries to Australia is currently the highest in the world and the country has underlined its commitment to help more people settle in Australia by setting up more than 30 new cities in its vast hinterland to facilitate the process.

Japan is working closely with all countries in South East Asia to improve infrastructure and encourage nascent cottage industries in these countries by contributing expertise and loans in an effort, the Prime Minister of Japan recently said, to make up for the atrocities committed by Japanese troops in World War 2 in these regions. These efforts build on a concerted reparations program that Japan has engaged in with The United Republic of Korea.

Malaria, AIDS, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis are officially eradicated as of today according to a WHO press release.